12 #UX things you need to know

Getting into user experience, what you need to know?

What will a person need to be able to do to get into user experience;

1. Can you think?

Not the most subtle way to ask, but can you be creative? Thinking at the beginning of a project can save a huge amount of money and time later, but many user experience people blast their way into a project by starting on wireframes, without knowing what they are doing.

A huge amount of user experience simply is not user experience, its pretty pictures with poor justifications ‘it’s best practice’ my usual response is ‘prove that it’s best practice’.

2. Can you find things out?

Do you have a critical mind, can you work out what is missing from the information you have been given.

A project requires a bit of detective work because there are always gaps in the information provided to user experience, mainly because clients and IT don’t know what to provide or what is provided has had the juicy bits (outlier views) removed because clients and IT don’t know they are important.

3. Are you objective?

Having a strong opinion on user experience is really important, but it must always be tempered with an open non judgemental attitude. Are you willing to be changed by what your client, users or IT people know?

User experience people are not the gate keepers of an absolute set of rules, we have two ears and one mouth, we should listen twice as much as we speak.

4. Can you discern Fact from Fiction?

Again talking with clients, users or IT people can be pretty confusing unless you can work out if what they are talking about is still within the boundaries and various time lines of the project. A quick guide;

  • Clients tend to talk about the desired end state
  • Users tend to talk about any snippets they have heard about the project or their hopes for it
  • IT tends to take the pragmatic approach by thinking ‘what can we really deliver’

They are all true or were true at some point, or may be true if we had more time and money etc.

5. Can you deal with the politics?

Can you avoid taking sides in the various feuds that were going on before you got there and not flame the fires of distrust between business and IT.

6. Will you understand the business you are serving?

Your in a service relationship with the business, helping them get past their assumptions about their users and giving them some facts to act upon.

7. Will you understand the users you are serving?

Your in a service relationship with the users, helping them get what they need and desire.

8. Can you test – concepts, theories, business thinking, user perceptions etc?

Your going to need a lot of guts to question other peoples thinking.

User experience people reserve the right to ask stupid questions, in order to avoid doing stupid things, by Karl Smith 1999.

I’ve been saying this since 1999, I say it on every project.

9. Can you seek validation?

The user experience person is not right, they can come up with concepts and questions but a user experience person never decides they are right, they must check out what they do with other people. Often this process of seeking validation reveals more information and opens door to previously inaccessible people.

10. Can you communicate – findings and concepts?

Can you talk to people and provide information to them in a digestible way? The best way to work is to not use jargon, not assume that people understand anything especially verbal references to famous people or design principals.

You need to be able to package your information in the users and stakeholders own verbal environment, so that they recognise and understand it when they hear it.

11. Can you understand and benefit from the project teams expertise?

Do you know what other people on the project do? For example do you know enough about technology to carry out research with developers to pre-scope extra user requirements.

Can you cope with the give and take that happens during development and know which things to fight for?

12. Finally do you keep your common sense active?

Can you spot a non sensible request, a great example of this was NASA spending $1,000,000 on a pen that would work in space, while Roscosmos (USSR) gave their astronauts a pencil. Can you give a reasoned non personalised argument for not doing something?

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